How to Assess Sprains, Strains and Fractures


Suspect a Fracture:

If you suspect an athlete has sustained a fracture, and there is no trainer available, look for the following signs and symptoms:

  • Ask the athlete if they heard a ‘snap’ or ‘pop’? Do they feel any numbness or tingling?
  • Look at the injury site for any type of deformity or immediate swelling. If the fracture is open and in the extreme case the bone has pierced through the skin, try to cover with clean bandages or towel and transport to ER immediately.
  • Feel the injury site for tenderness, is the athlete able to move or put pressure (weight) on the bone?
  • If the athlete cannot bear weight or use the limb, significant swelling is present and/or the area is exquisitely tender, follow these steps:

    Splint the bone.

    • Keep the limb in the position you found it.
    • Use something firm, such as a board (or tongue depressor for fingers).
    • Apply to limb.
    • Secure above and below the fracture site for comfort and support with ace wrap or first aid tape (white tape).
    • Ice.
  • Transport to medical care for further evaluation. Avoid eating or drinking in case surgery is necessary.
  • Continue to monitor the athlete of consciousness and keep them calm. Reassure that they are going to get taken care of properly and immediately.

Suspect a Sprain:

If you suspect an athlete has sustained a sprain, and there is no trainer available, look for the following signs and symptoms:

  • Ask the athlete if they heard a ‘snap’ or ‘pop’?
  • Look and feel for tenderness, swelling and/or bruising?
  • Immediately apply ICE to the injured site.
  • Elevate the limb above the heart, if possible to avoid increased swelling.
  • Use an ace bandage to wrap and compress the site to reduce swelling;
  • Instruct the athlete on how to either use crutches or wear a sling.
  • If athlete is not allergic to Tylenol, advise to take some to relieve the pain. You may need to get permission from parents, if student is a minor.
  • Have the athlete check in with a certified athletic trainer or coach the next day. Or refer the athlete to family physician. If the pain is unbearable, consider fracture. Follow above recommendations for immobilizing the limb and transport the athlete to the ER for further evaluation.

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